Ellen O’Connor a twenty-year-old Trinity student. She is in second year, studying History and she’s running for Fine Gael in Dun Laoghaire in the Local Elections in May.
She attended primary school in Cork, before moving to Dublin and going to Rathdown school in Glenageary.
At present, 211 Local Election candidates across Ireland fall in the 18-35 age category, accounting for 13.7 per cent of the total number of people going forward.
151 (71.6 per cent) of the ‘young ones’ are male, and sixty (28.4 per cent) are female.
O’Connor is the eldest of two children; her sister is 14 and has no interest in politics. Her mother, who passed away last year, was very involved in the General Election campaign of sitting TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor.
Her family, she says were always interested in politics; a mix of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in the older generations, but traditionally more Fine Gael since she can remember.
Going for election “came as a bit of a surprise,” says O’Connor and when the opportunity arose she was approached by Fine Gael who “asked if I would consider it”.
“I think we need more young people in politics,” she says, “I’m interested in showing young people that they can have a voice, and you can make that voice heard”.
She thinks that many people are cynical about politics at the moment, and that the only way to break through that and inspire people is to have more fresh faces going forward for election.
“New and fresh ideas” will help Ireland recover, she says, and she claims to have a good understanding of the issues locally in her electoral area.
O’Connor wants to help local business and says that creating jobs and attracting businesses to the area is vital.
“Trying to get young people to spend more time in the area instead of in town” would help Dun Laoghaire, says O’Connor, who wants to make the community a more attractive place for young people to spend their money and support local business.
She’d like to see the Council work with local business to try and run deals or promotions that she says would be popular with young people.
Parking is a big issue locally, she says, and she welcomed the Council’s decision to halve the amount of on-street parking available to motorists.
It seems unlikely that will help attract people to the area and boost local business and O’Connor herself says she wants to increase footfall on the Main Street.
There are many empty retail units she would like to see occupied, and the arrival of Starbucks and Nandos have boosted the amount of people, especially young people coming to the village, she says.
“There are about fourteen secondary schools in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, so there really is a huge amount of young people in the overall area,” says O’Connor, “We really need to represent that on the Council”.
She considers herself a perfectionist and a shy person and says that she finds it tough to go to people’s doors and ask for their vote. Despite that though, the response has been positive overall and she says that the locals seem happy to see a new face.
“I think the government has done huge work so far,” she said, and praises Minister Phil Hogan for the changes he’s planning for Local Government.
She plans to finish her degree, win or lose in May and does hint that she’d go abroad afterwards and study if things didn’t work out.
Whether she will run in the General Election in 2016 as a candidate is as yet unclear; she won’t rule it out and “really does want to make a difference” and considers the way to make a difference “is to get out there and go for it”.
The upcoming Local Elections will be held on Friday, May 23rd 2014. To find out if you are registered to vote or how to get on the register, go to www.checktheregister.ie.